An annual bird count has shown an estimated 76% decline in ruffed grouse populations in southeast Pennsylvania. (JohnCindy/Adobe Stock)

Report: Climate Change Putting Wildlife at Risk

By: Andrea Sears, Public News Service

HARRISBURG, Pa. — From torrential rains to raging wildfires, a new interactive map traces the devastating impact climate change is having on wildlife nationwide, including in Pennsylvania. The National Wildlife Federation has created a map, called “Unnatural Disasters,” which shows climate change, in combination with other factors, is putting at least 1 million plant and animal species around the world at risk of extinction.

According to Ed Perry, outreach coordinator with the federation’s Climate Crisis Campaign in Pennsylvania, figures from 2018 show some of those impacts are hitting very close to home.

“Almost all the counties had over 20 inches of rainfall beyond the normal levels,” Perry said. “And it’s affected our state fish, the brook trout, and our state bird, the ruffed grouse.”

He said heavy rain destroys trout habitat and leaves standing water where mosquitos can breed, spreading West Nile virus that kills many bird species.

There are economic impacts of climate change as well. Perry noted that in 2011, Hurricane Irene caused $58 million in losses in Pennsylvania.

“We’re spending billions and billions of dollars now having to recover from these unnatural disasters that are being caused by our climate crisis,” he said.

The federation’s map indicated by October, there had been 10 weather- and climate-related events nationwide exceeding $1 billion in losses in 2019 alone.

Perry pointed out the continuing reliance on fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas is a major factor driving rising global temperatures. And that, he said, makes it imperative to press every candidate for federal and state government to commit to taking action.

“What is their position on climate change? Are they for getting off these dirty fuels and getting us on clean, renewable energy? And if they are not all in on tackling climate change, we need to look for other representatives,” Perry said.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said we need to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of this century to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.


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